Evaluating sales force automation (SFA) software vendors

In this section of the sales force automation (SFA) guide, review top vendors and options including hosted SFA to help you decide if SFA is the right choice for your organization.

 Table of contents:

  • Sales strategy: How to get started
  • Evaluating sales force automation software vendors
  • Mobile CRM basics
  • Effective sales management
  • More CRM learning tools

Evaluating SFA software

This section was designed to review sales force automation (SFA) software options. Learn how to start evaluating SFA, how to weigh the pros and cons of hosted SFA software and how to weigh SFA vendor options. Once you've reviewed SFA technology, move on to the next section of the Sales Force Automation Learning Guide to learn more about mobile CRM.

What to consider when evaluating sales force automation

When evaluating SFA tools, think about the size of your sales force. Many of the self-described "midmarket" sales force automation vendors place their sweet spots between 40 and 250 users. In very broad strokes, organizations with sales forces of less than 250 users should look at midmarket vendors; between 250 and 500 users can be a coin toss between midmarket and enterprise vendors, and anything over 500 should look at only enterprise vendors

According to sales effectiveness expert Liz Roche, an organization with a 250-member sales force should consider the following top SFA vendors:

  • Microsoft CRM
  • NetSuite Inc.
  • Salesforce.com Inc.
  • RightNow Technologies Inc.

Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., evaluated eight of the leading on-premise midmarket SFA vendors based on its Forrester Wave methodology in a report in November 2005. The tools and vendors considered were FrontRange Solutions Inc.'s GoldMine, Maximizer Software Inc.'s Enterprise, Microsoft CRM, Onyx Software Corp., Pivotal, SageCRM (formerly ACPAC), Sage SalesLogix and Siebel Professional Edition. According to the report, the best SFA systems for midmarket CRM were Siebel's Professional Edition, Sage Software Inc.'s SalesLogix and Pivotal. FrontRange and Maximizer Software were said to best fit the needs of small businesses.

According to Forrester analyst Liz Herbert, Microsoft was a victim of timing, as Forrester evaluated its 1.2 CRM product and not the 3.0 version, which was not yet out.

Microsoft, along with Sage, was identified as the company best positioned to offer an all-in-one solution. The companies were the only ones evaluated to have ERP applications in their product portfolios.

On the other hand, Gartner's Magic Quadrant for SFA from July 2006 put Siebel in front. The analyst firm's regular market report on technology for sales professionals placed Siebel, a part of Oracle Corp., in the leader position. Germany's SAP AG was called visionary, and San Francisco-based Salesforce.com was named the sole challenger. The Magic Quadrant takes into account a vendor's functionality, presence in the market, sales execution, customer experience, and market and product strategy.

Is hosted SFA right for you?

Hosted SFA products generally offer a much quicker time-to-value and lower up-front financial risk. The downside is they are generally more difficult (if not impossible) to both customize and integrate with existing systems.

Much of the interest in hosted sales force automation applications has come from small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) looking for quick deployment and lower initial investments in their SFA technology. Pricing has been a prime motivator for SMB investment in hosted SFA, and vendors are responding.

Forrester evaluated eight vendors in the hosted SFA market in 2005. The analyst firm considered each product's setup and configuration, sales management, sales analysis, usability, offline and wireless access, integration, vendor strategy and market presence. Siebel OnDemand and Salesforce.com were identified as leaders. RightNow, NetSuite, Salesnet and Entellium ranked as strong performers in the study, and SalesCenter was named a strong contender.

Recent trends in hosted SFA have been a move toward verticalization and the resurgence of interest in wireless options.

Top SFA vendors: News and advice



  • Do-it-yourself software: Salesforce.com takes customization one step further
    CRM software isn't just for CRM anymore -- at least according to Salesforce.com. It's the non-traditional uses of the software that have piqued the interest of some in the CRM industry. Read how three firms are incorporating Salesforce.com screen tabs, data fields and workflow into applications that have little or nothing to do with sales or CRM.
  • Salesforce.com boosts CRM integration
    As it looks to extend its platform, the CRM and Software as a Service (SaaS) company will release features to help users integrate with Oracle 11i, middleware vendors and legacy systems.
  • Salesforce.com launches site to report outages
    Following a rash of outages with its software service, the hosted CRM vendor has launched a site to keep customers informed of its system performance.


  • Salesforce.com for Dummies: Web reporting tools
    This chapter gives step-by-step instructions on how to use, modify, create and organize reports in Salesforce.com.
  • Will Salesforce.com's Apex change the SaaS market?
    Learn how Salesforce.com's new programming language, Apex, will change the market and what it means for current Salesforce.com customers.
  • Are Salesforce.com's outages a big concern?
    Read advice on the importance of reliable connectivity and how on-demand CRM stacks up.
  • Planning for downtime with on-demand CRM
    Learn best practices to utilize if your on-demand CRM application goes down.



  • Microsoft launches CRM Online
    Microsoft's on-demand CRM application is now available, and the company is taking aim at Salesforce.com.
  • Microsoft unveils shared-source programs to bridge Office, Dynamics apps
    Four new programs from Microsoft link Office 2003 to back-end business management apps like Dynamics AX and CRM 3.0.
  • Forrester ranks the best SFA for midmarket CRM
    As consolidation dominates the enterprise CRM market, attention is turning toward the midmarket. A Forrester study identifies the top SFA vendors.


  • Sales forecasting opportunities and reports in Microsoft CRM
    Microsoft CRM offers several sales forecasting options to help organizations get quick and accurate access to the sales information they need to run their business.
  • Sales rep performance tracking in Microsoft CRM
    Learn how to track sales rep performance in Microsoft CRM using Excel integration and SQL Reporting Services in this tip.
  • Lead generation in Microsoft CRM
    Find lead generation advice, including information on how to convert an email to a sales lead, in this tip from Richard Smith, a Microsoft CRM expert.
  • Microsoft CRM Mobile benefits and functionality
    Is Microsoft CRM Mobile client worth the investment? Read advice, including benefits of mobile CRM and functionality for the Dynamics CRM Mobile client.
  • Best practices for lead management in Microsoft CRM
    Learn best practices for lead management in Microsoft CRM with this expert tip.
  • Cost analysis of Microsoft CRM mobile access
    Learn how Microsoft CRM's Outlook integration makes it possible for users with non-Windows mobile devices to access CRM data on the road in this expert tip.



  • Oracle adds collaboration, mobility to CRM On Demand
    The latest release of Oracle's SaaS product features integration with Internet portals and mobile workforce enhancements.
  • Firm dumps Salesforce.com, chooses Oracle over SAP
    USA Technologies, which produces hardware and software for cashless vending machines and laundry facilities, said growth is forcing the company to integrate its systems.
  • Gartner: Siebel still No. 1 in SFA
    Gartner's latest Magic Quadrant names Siebel the leader in SFA technology, but on-demand vendors and SAP are gaining ground.


  • Oracle CRM On Demand: Improvements and Web 2.0 functionality
    Learn about the new usability, productivity and social networking features in Oracle CRM On Demand.
  • Is Siebel SFA a good choice in today's market?
    Is Siebel still the best option for SFA? Read Bill Band's answer.
  • Is a Siebel upgrade worth the money?
    If you're considering an upgrade of Siebel CRM, read this tip from William Band, including budgeting costs for Siebel CRM and how to build a business case for upper management.



  • SAP and RIM team to bring native CRM to BlackBerry
    Running SAP CRM natively on the BlackBerry -- and other SAP applications in the future -- promises to change the mobile access game, according to SAP.
  • SAP CRM replaces Vantive at manufacturing firm
    Böwe, Bell + Howell selected mySAP CRM to replace an old Vantive system thanks to a site visit and the promise of integrating GPS.
  • Lincoln takes CRM on the road with SAP mobile
    With a rollout of SAP for Mobile Sales and a tablet PC deployment, Lincoln Electric transformed its sales system and processes.


  • What's the best CRM software for a midmarket sales force?
    SearchCRM.com's expert helps a midmarket CIO decide whether on-demand or on-premise SAP CRM software is more appropriate for his group of 75 sales agents.
  • Upgrading to SAP CRM 5.0: Tips for success
    SAP CRM expert Srini Katta advises a reader on the main points to consider for a smooth SAP CRM upgrade.
  • Will an SAP CRM implementation mean challenges for marketing campaigns?
    One reader asks what marketing can expect during a CRM implementation.

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